South Korea will develop advanced bunkering technology for liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships to increase the number of eco-friendly vessels it can support as more countries move to implement tougher environmental regulations, the oceans ministry said Tuesday.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has launched the LNG bunkering project along with state research institutes, including the Korea Research Institute of Ships & Ocean Engineering and the Korea Marine Equipment Research Institute.
The government has been seeking to develop the emerging marine transport sector to comply with the International Maritime Organization's sulfur cap on bunkers, set to be enforced in 2020.
Bunkering is the process of supplying fuel to ships for their own use. Bunkering of fuel or diesel oil requires the utmost care to prevent any kind of fire accident or oil spill.
"The number of LNG-fueled ships is expected to rise under the strengthened international regulations on the sulfur cap," the ministry said a statement. "Unlike Bunker C fuel oil, LNG needs to be transferred at extreme low temperatures, which requires the development of new technology and facilities."
The latest move is part of the government's broader plan to foster the emerging sector expected to witness a rise in demand.
LNG-powered ships are considered an eco-friendly option, but their high costs have posed challenges to private shippers.
To improve infrastructure, the ministry said it plans to place the first order for LNG-powered vessels by August and establish bunkering facilities in major ports in Busan and Ulsan.
South Korean shipyards have outstanding expertise in building LNG carriers and bunkering shuttles, but they are still in the early stages when it comes to LNG-powered ships and related bunkering infrastructure. Only one LNG-propelled vessel is operated in the country. (Yonhap)